Just kickin' it ...

Junior kicker Farquhar on Groza Award Watch List

THERE ARE A FEW QUESTIONS THAT REMAIN ABOUT WHO WILL START AT A COUPLE POSITIONS FOR IDAHO THIS FALL, but there is one near-certainty: Idaho's Special Teams units should again be solid. Led by First Team All-WAC punter Bobby Cowan, Groza Award Watch List kicker TREY FARQUHAR, and senior Special Teams Captain Tyler Brooks, the Vandals return seasoned veterans in all aspects of the kicking game.

FIELD GOAL KICKING

If there is any single aspect of Vandal football that has been consistently solid throughout the years, field goal kicking has to be given strong consideration. Obviously, Idaho has had some exceptional talent at quarterback (from John Friesz in the mid-80s with his long NFL career, to last year's 5th round NFL draft pick Nathan Enderle to the Bears), and sent an impressive group of offensive linemen to the NFL (most recently, 1st round NFL draft pick Mike Iupati to the 49ers). But through the years, field goal kicking is one position that has been generally steady and consistent from year-to-year.

From Tim McMonigle in the early 80s whose name is peppered throughout the record books, to the great Mike Hollis from the early 90s who enjoyed an All-Pro NFL career, to Tino Amancio who graduated in 2008 and holds the all-time career accuracy record. For decades the Vandals have routinely been solid in the field goal kicking department.

Idaho appears to have another burgeoning star in junior Trey Farquhar, a two-year starter who was named to the Lou Groza Award Watch List this summer.

Trey joined the Vandal program in January 2009 after grayshirting the 2008 season and didn't miss a beat, immediately stepping into the starting job. That first season at Idaho - the Vandals' Humanitarian Bowl year - Trey was successful on 13-of-19 field goal attempts and 45 of 46 PATs. His 54-yard field goal at Nevada is the fourth longest in school history, while his 52-yarder at San Jose State ties for ninth longest. For his efforts he earned Second Team All-WAC honors as a freshman.

Last year as a sophomore he again was solid as he finished the 2010 campaign connecting on 18-of-25 attempts (72%), including being good on 4-of-8 from 40 yards or more. He also went 40-of-41 on PATs.

Although he didn't make an All-WAC Team last year, he did set a few UI marks. First of all, he set the new UI single season record for field goals made with 18 last year. He's currently second all-time on career field goal percentage (70.5%, just behind Amancio's 70.8% record and ahead of Tim McMonigle's 65.2%), fourth on PAT conversion percentage, and sixth on career field goals made (31, tracking Thayne Doyle's all-time record of 49, and just behind Ben Davis' 32 field goals).

There will be one change this fall to the field goal team, as Idaho will be breaking in a new snapper and will look to freshman Marius Burgsmueller (6-5.5, 266), a monsterous defensive end who recently came to America from Germany. Burgsmueller was solid in the spring, and goes into fall as Idaho's top choice to handle all special teams snapping duties.


PUNTING

As with the kickers at Idaho, the Vandals have had a nice run of punters as well. In 2008 Idaho punter T.J. Conley was named to the Walter Camp All-American Football Team following a season in which he led the nation with a punting average of 47.73 yards per punt.

Junior punter Bobby Cowan
The following season Idaho turned to redshirt freshman Bobby Cowan to step forward and take over the punting duties. He certainly had an impressive resume following a stellar high school career. For a remarkable three consecutive years (2005, 06, and 07) Cowan was a First Team Class 4A AP All-State selection as a high school punter in the state of Washington - impressive by any standard. He was also named to Jim Stefani's National list of Top 28 punters for the Class of 2008. And, like Conley, Cowan also was a starter at quarterback for his Evergreen high team.

He did not disappoint in 2009, performing admirably in Idaho's run to the Humanitarian Bowl, including being named the WAC Special Teams Player of the Week following an exceptional season opening performance at New Mexico State in which he averaged 49.2 yards per punt and boomed his first collegiate punt 52 yards.

But by comparison, 2010 was his breakout year. By the time the dust had settled on the 2010 season, Idaho punter Bobby Cowan (from Evergreen High School in Vancouver, Wash., and the latest in a long list of Cowans who have played for the Vandals) had accumulated an impressive average of 45.14 yards per punt, which was the second highest average in University of Idaho history. This mark led the Western Athletic Conference and was 13th in the nation. Combined with his freshman year average of 43.0, he has a school record average of 44.23 yards per punt.

For his efforts in 2010, he was the only Vandal athlete named a First Team Western Athletic Conference selection last fall.

With the 2011 season on the horizon, Cowan is beginning to make some noise now outside the Conference and recently was named to the GoDaddy.com Preseason All-American Team this summer as an Honorable Mention selection.

If Cowan can maintain this level of performance he could rewrite the all-time record books at the University of Idaho, and will continue to be considered for Conference and national honors for his efforts.


SPECIAL TEAMS UNITS

There are few aspects of the game of college football that can change momentum as quickly, and as succinctly, as special teams. Last fall junior Justin Hernandez out of Lapwai (Ida.) High School recovered a blocked punt in the endzone at Western Michigan, helping propel Idaho to a 33-13 road victory.

Special teams are a crucial aspect of the Vandal game, and - as it is for many team - something Idaho emphasizes every week. With kickers the caliber of Farquhar and Cowan, the next piece of the puzzle is the coverage units surrounding them (and defending against opposing kickers). This is an aspect of the Idaho game that has steadily improved under the leadership of 5th year head coach Robb Akey and his staff. These units include some of Idaho's fastest and most aggressive athletes, as well as position starters like Shiloh Keo (a 5th round NFL draft pick as a safety who was also Idaho's top punt returner for years).

Senior middle linebacker and special teams captain Tyler Brooks
Led by senior middle linebacker Tyler Brooks out of Orofino (Ida.), named Idaho's 2011 Special Teams Captain, the Vandals should again feature several solid Special Teams units this fall.

Junior outside linebacker Brad Marboe out of Idaho Falls (Ida.) and junior tailback Troy Vital out of Copperas Cove (Texas) are among a stacked list of up-and-coming athletes who have cut their teeth on special teams the last few years. Both of these athletes, as well as several others, have been key to Idaho's growth on special teams in recent years, and will also be battling for more playing time in their offensive and defensive position rotations this fall.

Who will take over as Idaho's top punt and kickoff returners this fall remains to be seen. A new punt returner must be found to replace the fearless Keo. Kickoff return duties have been handled in the past by speedsters Justin Veltung, Kama Bailey, and Matt Harvey (among others). Look for redshirt freshman Jayson Washington out of Moscow (Ida.) High School to get his shot, as well as several other young athletes looking for an opportunity to make an impact immediately.



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